Top Artists – Stevie Ray Vaughan

Letter of the Week – “I took another listen to SRV, this time at VOLUME. Oh boy…”

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, quick update, going back to the SRV…

In light of your detailed notes, I took another listen to SRV Couldn’t Stand the Weather, this time at VOLUME. Oh boy, what a revelation. (Wasn’t able to do this over the weekend with young kids around, but this being a ‘work’ day with the four y/o at school, and Mama and the baby dancing to what they can hear in the next room… : ))

There seems to be a threshold level for this record which it sounds congested below, but which it comes alive above (and how).

I also noticed that my previous observations about the ratings of sides A and B were reversed at this volume level; there is more bass on side A, which was resulting in it sounding more congested at lower levels, but which is delicious when played loud; side B sounds a bit thin a louder volumes comparatively. I guess this is more in line with what you heard when reviewing.

So – I will definitely hang on to the CSTW record, and do a similar re-evaluation of Soul to Soul tomorrow. Being able to blast Better Records during ‘work’ hours is one of the few upsides of this pandemic (I work from home as a product designer… if you ever need help with your website, let me know).

Long term will get some bigger speakers… this has been a good discovery for me about the strengths and limits of my system.

Many thanks,

C

Conrad,

You hit the nail on the head with your revision of the sound of the two sides at loud levels. We don’t know what our rock and electric blues and even classical records sound like at moderate levels. We don’t play them that way, and we don’t want to hear them that way. Playing records too quietly obscures their faults. It also reduces the energy, whatever dynamic contrasts they might have, the ability to play clean in the loudest climaxes or choruses, and on and on down the list.

If someone were to invite me to hear their system, my first question would be “do you play your records at loud volumes?”

If the answer were no, I would stay home. What is more frustrating then music that won’t come alive?

Have you ever been in an audio showroom where they refused to play the system at anything but moderate levels? Of course you have. They never turn it up very loud because their systems fall apart at loud levels. (The rooms are at fault for a lot of the bad sound. Good room treatments are ugly and scare away potential customers.)

Assuming that audiophiles won’t insist on playing these stereos at realistic levels and finding out just how bad they are is a pretty safe bet.

It took me decades to figure out what was going with these audio salons. You couldn’t pay me to go to one now.


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Hot Stamper Pressings of Electric Blues Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Records that Sound Their Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Texas Flood

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  • Both sides here are incredibly big, full and natural sounding with tons of energy and presence; exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • “It’s hard to overestimate the impact Stevie Ray Vaughan’s debut, Texas Flood, had upon its release in 1983… Vaughan became a genuine star and, in doing so, sparked a revitalization of the blues…” – All Music
  • If you’re a fan of Stevie Ray Vaughan, a killer copy of his debut album from 1983 belongs in your collection.

This copy gets Stevie’s room-filling guitar to sound about as rich and powerful as a recording of it can. When playing this record, first make sure the volume is up good and high. Now close your eyes and picture yourself in a blues club, with the volume ten times louder than your stereo will play. Electric Blues played at loud levels in a small club would sound pretty much like this album does, a bit messy but also real.

If you’re one of those audiophiles who insists on proper soundstaging with layered depth and pinpoint imaging, forget it. That’s not in the cards. The producers and engineers were going for the “live in the studio” sound with this one (and most of his other albums it seems), which means it’s a jumble image-wise.

But that’s the way you would hear it performed live, so where’s the harm? (more…)

The Vaughan Brothers – Family Style

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  • This pressing of Jimmie and Stevie Ray’s 1990 release has superb Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Space, clarity, transparency, and in-the-room immediacy were off the charts on this pressing – it beat every copy we had hands down
  • “Jimmie makes his vocal debut on ‘White Boots’ and ‘Good Texan,’ and the brothers blur the lines between their expected guitar styles — Stevie sometimes going for a less sustainy twang, Jimmie moving into Albert King territory.”

(more…)

Stevie Ray Vaughan – The Sky Is Crying

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Albums with Especially Dynamic Guitar Solos

  • This STUNNING pressing boasts insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second, which means the nearly seven minutes of Little Wing on this side one is guaranteed to present you with some of the most amazing sound you’ve ever heard
  • Some of the most blistering performances of electric blues we have ever had the pleasure of rocking out to
  • Hands down the best sounding SRV recording — Little Wing is an absolute monster on this side one and a Demo track to beat them all
  • 4 stars: “Doing away with vocals, Vaughan augments Hendrix’s concise two-and-a-half minute original, turning the track into a nearly seven-minute-long electric tour de force. The cover would earn Vaughan his sixth Grammy, for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, in 1992.”

This is one of the most blistering recordings of electric blues we’ve ever played. Few other records recorded in the ’80s have this kind of BIG, BOLD sound. Maybe none. The sheer impact and wallop of this music is a real treat, but only if you have the right pressing (and the right kind of stereo to play it on, of course).

Stevie’s take on Jimi’s Little Wing is the surest proof that SRV was one of the greatest Electric Blues Guitarists of All Time. I know of no other guitar showcase to compete with it.

Turn it up good and loud and you will be amazed at how dynamic the guitar solos are.

Sonically it’s a knockout, with one of the tallest, widest, and deepest soundstages I have ever heard on record. It brings to mind Gilmore’s multiple solos on Money from the hottest Dark Side of the Moon pressings, high praise indeed.

Little Wing deservedly won SRV the Grammy in ’92 for Best Rock Instrumental.

And, if you want to hear Stevie channel Wes Montgomery instead of Jimi Hendrix, take a listen to Chitlins Con Carne. (more…)

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Soul To Soul

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Hot Stamper Pressings of Electric Blues Available Now

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  • Superb Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout this Classic of Electric Blues Guitar – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • A copy like this one soars above the pack with its hard-rockin’ energy, rich, solid bass, open top end, and freedom from congestion
  • This is one of the better copies to hit the site in years – good SRV albums are getting tough to find nowadays
  • “[SRV] wanted to add soul and R&B inflections to his basic blues sound, and Soul to Soul does exactly that. [T]he Curtis Mayfield-inspired closer, ‘Life Without You,’ captures Vaughan at his best as a composer and performer. It’s such a seductive number — such a full realization of his soul-blues ambitions…”

Vaughn’s guitar playing is as fiery as ever, and the addition of keyboards and saxophone here gives the music broader scope and range than was possible on his previous albums.

Messy But Real

These killer sides get Stevie’s room-filling guitar to sound about as rich and powerful as a recording of it can. When playing this record, first make sure the volume is up good and high. Now close your eyes and picture yourself in a blues club, with the volume ten times louder than your stereo will play. Electric Blues played at loud levels in a small club would sound pretty much like this album does, a bit messy but also real.

If you’re one of those audiophiles who insists on precise soundstaging, with layered depth and pinpoint imaging, forget it. That’s not in the cards. The producers and engineers were going for the “live in the studio” sound with this one (and most of his other albums it seems), which means it’s a bit of a jumble image-wise.

But that’s the way you would hear it performed live in a club, so where’s the harm?

(more…)

Hot Stampers and Good Sounding Records Are Not the Same Thing

They are barely even related. Here’s why.

A good customer wrote to us recently to say that he was not happy with the Stevie Ray Vaughan White Hot Stamper pressings we had sent him.

Tom,

I also have a couple more returns for you: SRV Couldn’t Stand the Weather and SRV Soul to Soul. While these are good, they’re just not quite up to White Hot Stamper quality like some of the other records clearly are.

I took the opportunity to reply at length. The most interesting part is at the top if you don’t want to read the whole thing.

Dear Sir,

You appear to be conflating two concepts, Hot Stampers and Good Recordings. They are not the same thing. They are barely even related.

Hot Stampers are especially good sounding pressings of specific albums that we found through shootouts.

The recordings of these albums may be better or worse than others you are familiar with. That has nothing to do with how hot the stampers are of the pressings we sell.

It works this way: if you had a hundred copies of The Dark Side of the Moon, the median pressing– the one that would have ranked number 50 out of 100 — would sound substantially better than either of those two SRV albums.

Pink Floyd: amazing recording. 

SRV: good, not great recording.

We would never sell an average pressing of DSOTM. We only sell the best sounding versions of it.

We would never sell the average version of any SRV album. We only sell the best sounding versions of them.

But no SRV album is ever going to sound like a good Dark Side of the Moon! (more…)

Stevie Ray Vaughan Box Set – One Customer’s Take on the Analogue Productions 45 RPM Remaster

A good customer bought some SRV Hot Stampers from me a while back. He then told me he was going to spend $400 on the AP SRV Box Set

Hey Tom,

For kicks on this issue of heavy vinyl vs. hot stampers, I’m tempted to order the ‘Texas Hurricane’ box set — 45rpm, 200g etc. — and shoot it out against the SRV records I’ve got from you.

Would you be interested to know how that goes?

In the admittedly unlikely event that the heavy vinyl smoked the hot stampers, would you take them back? Easy to sell the heavy vinyl on without losing money, but not so much the hot stampers.

Just an idea… I’m delighted with what I have from you, but so curious to learn more by comparing etc. Could be fuel for a cool blog post in due course…

CF

I replied:

Oh, I think you are in for quite a shock, and of course we would take our copies back, but I would give you very good odds that that will never happen as long as you have two working ears.

A few weeks go by.

Tom,

So the results are in … after listening to Texas Hurricane (at 45rpm) and comparing to the White Hot Stamper versions of the same albums I can say… as a musical experience it’s incomprehensible. It just doesn’t rock, doesn’t uplift, and it’s veiled, so you lose the whole meaning of this music, the energy, soul, life.

I wasted $400 to find this out. Any chance you have another customer who’d like to relieve me of it to do their own shootout?

I’ll never doubt you again : )

CF

Good to know you will never doubt me again! Always think back to the sour taste in your mouth and the painful throbbing in your brain from playing this heavy vinyl garbage and perhaps you will never be tempted again. If you feel the urge to cross over to the dark side, please email me and I will do my best to talk you out of it. That way lies madness (and audio frustration).

TP

Here’s the $32,000 Question

Is this a bad sounding record? I don’t know, never played it. Is it worth it to you to spend $400 to find out?

Does Analogue Productions have a pretty good track record to rely on in these matters?

Or are they, as I have been saying since 1995, one of the worst labels of all time?

In another commentary I wrote: (more…)

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Couldn’t Stand The Weather – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This SUPER HOT STAMPER side one gets Stevie’s bluesy guitar to sound about as rich and powerful as any recording of it can. Just picture yourself in a blues club. Now imagine the volume being about ten times as loud. This is the kind of music you would hear and it would tend to sound pretty much like this, a bit messy but also real. If you’re one of those audiophiles who likes pinpoint imaging, forget it. They were going for the “live in the studio” sound with this one, which means it’s a bit of a jumble image-wise. But that’s the way you would hear it in a blues club, so where’s the harm? (more…)

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Live Alive

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We just finished a big shootout for this bluesy live album, and this was one of just a handful of copies that impressed us from start to finish. Most copies we played were thick, murky, overly smooth and/or veiled, but this one almost never suffers in any of those areas. The sound is clean, clear, transparent and lively throughout.

This is one of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s better albums. We’ve heard reissues on both heavy and regular vinyl, but I guarantee this will KILL them all or your money back. (more…)

Stevie Ray Vaughan / Texas Flood – Forget Layered Depth and Pinpoint Imaging

This copy gets Stevie’s room-filling guitar to sound about as rich and powerful as a recording of it can. When playing this record, first make sure the volume is up good and high. Now close your eyes and picture yourself in a blues club, with the volume ten times louder than your stereo will play. Electric Blues played at loud levels in a small club would sound pretty much like this album does, a bit messy but also real.  

If you’re one of those audiophiles who insists on precise soundstaging with layered depth and pinpoint imaging, forget it. That’s not in the cards. The producers and engineers were going for the “live in the studio” sound with this one (and most of his other albums it seems), which means it’s a bit of a jumble image-wise. But that’s the way you would hear it performed live in a club, so where’s the harm? (more…)